Monday, April 29, 2013

Henrique Capriles Redonski Ralley/ Election Week

Since we got from Spring Break life in Merida has been crazy as we draw closer to the April Election on Sunday, the 14th.  With the election of course the government is imposing a Ley Seca of closing all bars and halting halting liquor sales.  So we took full advantage of last weekend going to concerts and a couple of clubs.  I even was able to go to my first real soccer game on Sunday played at a gigantic stadium.  It was electrifying and I never realized how passionate and fun a soccer game could be.  Unfortunately I do not have pictures from that game.  This week on Wednesday the Democratic (my opinion) party candidate came to Merida.  He is the candidate that everyone living in Merida overwhelmingly loves and supports.  I have mentioned Capriles Redonski before.  He will probably win the election by votes and has more support of Venezuela as a whole than Maduro.  It is too bad though because the government controls everything and will just say the voting ended with Maduro winning.  This is a fierce election with there likely to be riots no matter what side wins or loses.   It will be more dangerous though if Capriles wins because then Chavista's will attack Americans and blame us. I like the belief that so many citizens have that Capriles can and will win but it will be tough when the election is over.  I think even if he wins by votes, Maduro will still be made the new president.

It is crazy to think how important of a historical event we are witnessing for the country of Venezuela along with socialist governments.

So on Wednesday I went with a group of friends to the Capriles rally in the Centro.  This rally was ten times more crazy than Maduro and we all bought T-shirts the day before.  All the teachers and students at VENUSA were supporting Capriles as well.  The rally was packed and ruthlessly packed with people at times.  Insane is an understatement of how crazy it was.  People were constantly pushing to get closer.  I saw  many people get run over or fight with people around them for space.  Everyone was constantly blowing whistles and horns if not singing and yelling Capriles chants.  It also had to be incredibly humid and sunny out as well.
Shit got real when this huge bat flew in our room

Motos on the street along with the bike helmets they use as  helmets

A big blow up statue of Chavez at a political booth

At the Capriles Ralley

Notice the crazy signs

This one pictures Chavez getting kicked by a boot

One of my favorite foods inVZLA, Empanadas

Aloe drank!

Little President Figures in Mercado Principal

The Chavista/Maduro booth

We got a picture in front of it

The sign on the right is about all the basic products that  shouldn't be but are impossible to find here

Another reason I live Venezuela, their take on burgers

Friday, April 12, 2013

Semana Santa- Salto Angel (Spring Break- Angel Falls)

Shortly before or after our big Spring break I went with a group of Americans after class to the local rally for Maduro.  This was a really for the Socialist candidate who is currently the interim president for Chavez as well.  It was a surprisingly crazy rally for a city that has a majority of Anti-Chavistas.  Unlike a Capriles rally where Americans are welcomed, people at this rally disliked Americans just like Chavez did.  We were constantly asked where we were from and what we were doing there.  We continually lied saying we were from Germany or Canada to be safe.

Political candidacy here is very different because there are not many restricting laws.  The candidates almost never wear suits and there is much more nationalism here.  Also speeches and rallies can be interesting with the candidates saying whatever they want.  At the Maduro rally, he just said a lot of nonsense and made fun of the opposition.
At the Maduro rally

Maduro in the blue

Maduro Rally

Maduro Speaking
Friday before break- We left early in the morning taking a bus from the bus terminal in Merida to a city a couple hours away, Barinas.  After finding out the next bus we were supposed to take was all booked we haggled our way onto a bus to Caracas (roughly 10 hours) that arrived at 3 am.  At this time we were stranded in one of the most dangerous cities and therefore bus terminals in the world late at night.  Some of us were hung over on top of that.  At this stop a nice man found a bus driver that was awake for us because the entire terminal was deserted or full of creepy old men.  Otherwise we were planning to just sit in a pack till the next bus that morning. 

Saturday- We arrived in Ciudad Bolivar from Caracas to stay overnight at a Posada.  At this point the rest of our trip was paid for so we were able to stop having to pay for meals and transportation (buses).  Ciudad Bolivar was unfortunately not any safer than Caracas.  Bolivar is a small historic and colonial city where no white people live.  It also is full of Chavez supporters (Chavistas) and people that do not like America.  The pueblo has a culture of everything closing at 6 pm every day and the streets being deserted thereafter. 

We quickly learned the city was quite dangerous when a store refused to allow a group of us to enter because we were white and not Latin American.  Unlike Merida, which is one of the most liberal cities of Venezuela, Ciudad Bolivar is very tradition and does not welcome foreigners.  In Merida many people love gringos because of our skin color and smile or stare at us.  The majority of people in Bolivar would either glare or mean mug us or just stare in general.  Some also tried to rip us off as local vendors by raising the prices for just us.  Although I did meet a few nice people that showed me where liquor stores were or recommended a nice restaurant, this was of course after I told them I was from Germany.  I do this often because of the political tension thanks to Chavez and because many people think I am German to begin with. 
While in Ciudad Bolivar a group of girls along with a guy from our group were robbed.  They were robbed in an empty park by two men that had a machete and a big club.  The men quietly came up to one person after another because they were all exploring and searched them for belongings while rubbing a machete on their necks or wrists.  It was a very scary experience for everyone whether or not we were there or not.  The entire group in the park was not robbed because a couple screamed and then they all started to run.  While running one of them was grabbed by her hair and tackled before being robbed.  They took many things such as passports, money, and expensive cameras.  It was an eye opening event that forced us to spend the rest of our time in that city in isolation; rarely leaving the small posada (hotel) we stayed. 

Luckily the place we stayed was a very nice, secure place.  It even had a barred in porch for us to hang out on and overlook most of the city.  I also ate at a nice restaurant here that had a great meal of fried chicken and rice for only 50 some Bolivares ($2.50).  I also was able to buy fruits and veges to make salsa with at the local market and some other snacks and a souvenir as well.
We spent the night hanging out in our “gringo cage” which included a couple of hammocks (Venezuelan staple).  I of course set up my own hammock as well.  

Our room at the posada in Ciudad Bolivar

A meal at Ciudad Bolivar for $2.50

Hanging out in the Gringo cage

All the hammocks

The next morning we drove to the airport where we had the most thorough bag search I have ever experienced.  They went through everything in each person’s luggage and confiscated many items.  We were at an airport entering a national park where we had to pay a fee so it kind of made sense.  They would not allow us to bring in any kind of drug, especially alcohol or pills in addition to other things like knives.  They somehow did not find my knife in my backpack whereas many items were taken from other people in my group.  We then boarded a bush plane and were off to the National Park in Canaima to see the world’s tallest and highest waterfall, Angel Falls.

Once we arrived by plane, we had to wait at a gift shop for an extended period of time (typical Venezuelan custom of waiting around, doing nothing, taking your time) before we were driven in a beaten up tour bus to our camp.  This place looked like a broken down abandoned hotel that was haunted but somehow functioned as a posada that we were able to stay at for a night and then another night.  It was beaten up and reminded me of a half demolished or rundown building with a barely accessible much less safe third level.  All the rooms were on the third level in a line, with few having keys but all having beds. 

  The park posada were run entirely by locals with the majority of the guides because indigenous natives from surrounding tribes.  Our guides name was Tony and he was very nice and could speak Spanish and English in addition to his native language.  Our place of stay at the park was seated 100 feet from a beautiful lake with supposedly crazy currents.  This lake had five medium sized waterfalls that we could see across the lake form the shore.  It also had many other posadas and resorts along its shore line as well.  

Getting some hammock time in

Our posada in Canaima

It was pretty beaten up

The road to the posada

Walk to the lake

The lake close to where we stayed with waterfalls

Our boat, it leaked a lot

A big locust we saw

At the posada
Sweet Landscape
A tree at the Posada


This beach we went to

Check out the white sand

That day we went on a couple of trips to small waterfalls and a lake we could swim in.  The next day we began our long trek to see Angel Falls.  We had an 8 hour boat ride upstream in long, beaten up, old wooden boats.  Because it was the dry season the water level was extremely low and we had to get out and push quite frequently because there were many shallow spots and rapids with rocks. 

  After a beautiful but grueling boat ride we made it to our camp.  This was more or less a big canopy with two bathrooms and a bunch of hammocks under it.  We took a break at the sight and then trekked a couple hours up a steep trail to see Angel Falls.  The view at the top was breath taking.  Angel Falls is the world’s longest waterfall.  After that we went back to camp and stayed a night in the jungle in the canopy with hammocks.  Then we took the 8 hour boat ride the next day down the river back to the posada.  In a bit of time, we flew back to Ciudad Bolivar and got on a bus that went all the way back to Barinas.  From Barinas we were able to take another bus back to Merida. 

In the jungle

A lake we swam in where supposedly many have drowned because of the currents

About to walk under the waterfalls

Underneath a waterfall



River rapids

Hiking to Angel Falls

Hammock City
Sleeping during our 8 hour boat ride

Under the waterfall
Group photo

Hanging out at the beach
Jumping off some rocks


In the jungle

Angel Falls

The waterfall below

Swimming in Angel Falls


On the Sunday at the end of our spring break trip after our trip to Angel Falls a couple guys in our group went on a hiking trip to a waterfall just outside of Merida.  It was a couple hour hike deep in the jungle.  It also included a rope vine swing which was pretty cool.  At the end we got to swim in the waterfall which had ice cold water.  We also stopped at a local zoo on our way there.
Chickens at the zoo
Toucan Sam


Birds of some kind


A cat


Richard Parker




This ballistic baboon

Sign on our hike to the waterfalls at Monte Zerpa



Playing soccer at home